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Production and Cost. The Nature of the Firm. What is a business firm? An organization, owned and operated by private individuals, that specializes in production Production is the process of combining inputs to make outputs The firm must deal with a variety of individuals and organizations

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the nature of the firm
The Nature of the Firm
  • What is a business firm?
    • An organization, owned and operated by private individuals, that specializes in production
  • Production is the process of combining inputs to make outputs
  • The firm must deal with a variety of individuals and organizations
    • Sells its output to customers
    • Receives revenue from them in return
  • Where does the revenue go?
    • Much of it goes to input suppliers
      • The total of all of these payments makes up the firm’s costs of production
        • When costs are deducted from revenue, what remains is the firm’s profit
          • Profit = Revenue – Costs
the nature of the firm1
The Nature of the Firm
  • Every firm must deal with the government
    • Pays taxes to the government
    • Must obey government laws and regulations
    • Receive valuable services from the government
      • Public capital
      • Legal systems
      • Financial systems
types of business firms
Types of Business Firms
  • There are about 24 million business firms in United States—each of them falls into one of three legal categories
    • A sole proprietorship
      • A firm owned by a single individual
    • A partnership
      • A firm owned and usually operated by several individuals who share in the profits and bear personal responsibility for any losses
    • Both of the above face
      • Unlimited liability
        • Each owner is held personally responsible for the obligations of the firm
      • The difficulty of raising money to expand the business
        • Each partner bears full responsibility for the poor judgment of any one of them
types of business firms1
Types of Business Firms
  • A corporation
    • Owned by those who buy shares of stock and whose liability is limited to the amount of their investment in the firm
    • Ownership is divided among those who buy shares of stock
    • Each share of stock entitles its owner to a share of the corporation’s profit
      • Some of this is paid out in dividends
  • If the corporation needs additional funds it may sell more stock
  • Offers the stockholder limited liability
  • However, stockholders suffer double taxation
why employees
Why Employees?
  • Most firms have employees
    • People who work for the firm and receive a wage or salary, but are not themselves owners
  • Each of us could operate our own one-person firms as independent contractors
    • So why don’t more of us do this?
      • Would not be enjoying the highest standard of living possible to us
the advantages of employment
The Advantages of Employment
  • Gains from specialization
  • Lower transaction costs
  • Reduced risk
further gains from specialization
Further Gains From Specialization
  • Independent contractor must
    • Design the good
    • Make the good
    • Deal with customers
    • Advertise services
  • At a factory each of these tasks would be performed by different individuals who would work full time at their activity
lower transaction costs
Lower Transaction Costs
  • Transaction costs are time costs and other costs required to carry out market exchanges
  • In a firm with employees many supplies and services can be produced inside the organization
    • Firm can enjoy significant savings on transaction costs
reduced risk
Reduced Risk
  • Large firm with employees offers opportunities for everyone involved to reduce risk through
    • Diversification
      • Process of reducing risk by spreading sources of income among different alternatives
  • With large firms, two kinds of diversification are possible
    • Within the firm
    • Among firms
  • These advantages help it attract customers, workers, and potential owners
the limits to the firm
The Limits to the Firm
  • You might be tempted to conclude that bigger is always better
    • The larger the firm, the greater will be the cost savings
  • However, there are limits
thinking about production
Thinking About Production
  • Production naturally brings to mind inputs and outputs
  • Inputs include resources
    • Labor
    • Capital
    • Land
    • Raw materials
    • Other goods and services provided by other firms
  • Way in which these inputs may be combined to produce output is the firm’s technology
thinking about production1
Thinking About Production
  • A firm’s technology is treated as a given
    • Constraint on its production, which is spelled out by the firm’s production function
    • For each different combination of inputs, the production function tells us the maximum quantity of output a firm can produce over some period of time
the short run and the long run
The Short Run and the Long Run
  • Useful to categorize firms’ decisions into
    • Long-run decisions—involves a time horizon long enough for a firm to vary all of its inputs
    • Short-run decisions—involves any time horizon over which at least one of the firm’s inputs cannot be varied
  • To guide the firm over the next several years
    • Manager must use the long-run lens
  • To determine what the firm should do next week
    • Short run lens is best
production in the short run
Production in the Short Run
  • When firms make short-run decisions, there is nothing they can do about their fixed inputs
    • Stuck with whatever quantity they have
    • However, can make choices about their variable inputs
  • Fixed inputs
    • An input whose quantity must remain constant, regardless of how much output is produced
  • Variable input
    • An input whose usage can change as the level of output changes
  • Total product
    • Maximum quantity of output that can be produced from a given combination of inputs
production in the short run1
Production in the Short Run
  • Marginal product of labor (MPL) is the change in total product (ΔQ) divided by the change in the number of workers hired (ΔL)
  • Tells us the rise in output produced when one more worker is hired
marginal returns to labor
Marginal Returns To Labor
  • As more and more workers are hired
    • MPL first increases
    • Then decreases
  • Pattern is believed to be typical at many types of firms
increasing marginal returns to labor
Increasing Marginal Returns to Labor
  • When the marginal product of labor increases as employment rises, we say there are increasing marginal returns to labor
    • Each time a worker is hired, total output rises by more than it did when the previous worker was hired
diminishing returns to labor
Diminishing Returns To Labor
  • When the marginal product of labor is decreasing
    • There are diminishing marginal returns to labor
    • Output rises when another worker is added so marginal product is positive
    • But the rise in output is smaller and smaller with each successive worker
  • Law of diminishing (marginal) returns states that as we continue to add more of any one input (holding the other inputs constant)
    • Its marginal product will eventually decline
thinking about costs
Thinking About Costs
  • A firm’s total cost of producing a given level of output is the opportunity cost of the owners
    • Everything they must give up in order to produce that amount of output
  • This is the core of economists’ thinking about costs
the irrelevance of sunk costs
The Irrelevance of Sunk Costs
  • Sunk cost is one that already has been paid, or must be paid, regardless of any future action being considered
  • Should not be considered when making decisions
  • Even a future payment can be sunk
    • If an unavoidable commitment to pay it has already been made
explicit vs implicit costs
Explicit vs. Implicit Costs
  • Types of costs
    • Explicit (involving actual payments)
      • Money actually paid out for the use of inputs
    • Implicit (no money changes hands)
      • The cost of inputs for which there is no direct money payment
costs in the short run
Costs in the Short Run
  • Fixed costs
    • Costs of a firm’s fixed inputs
  • Variable costs
    • Costs of obtaining the firm’s variable inputs
measuring short run costs total costs
Measuring Short Run Costs: Total Costs
  • Types of total costs
    • Total fixed costs
      • Cost of all inputs that are fixed in the short run
    • Total variable costs
      • Cost of all variable inputs used in producing a particular level of output
    • Total cost
      • Cost of all inputs—fixed and variable
      • TC = TFC + TVC
average costs
Average Costs
  • Average fixed cost (AFC)
    • Total fixed cost divided by the quantity of output produced
  • Average variable cost (TVC)
    • Total variable cost divided by the quantity of output produced
  • Average total cost (TC)
    • Total cost divided by the quantity of output produced
marginal cost
Marginal Cost
  • Marginal Cost
    • Increase in total cost from producing one more unit or output
  • Marginal cost is the change in total cost (ΔTC) divided by the change in output (ΔQ)
  • Tells us how much cost rises per unit increase in output
  • Marginal cost for any change in output is equal to shape of total cost curve along that interval of output
explaining the shape of the marginal cost curve
Explaining the Shape of the Marginal Cost Curve
  • When the marginal product of labor (MPL) rises (falls), marginal cost (MC) falls (rises)
  • Since MPL ordinarily rises and then falls, MC will do the opposite—it will fall and then rise
    • Thus, the MC curve is U-shaped
the relationship between average and marginal costs
The Relationship Between Average And Marginal Costs
  • At low levels of output, the MC curve lies below the AVC and ATC curves
    • These curves will slope downward
  • At higher levels of output, the MC curve will rise above the AVC and ATC curves
    • These curves will slope upward
  • As output increases; the average curves will first slope downward and then slope upward
    • Will have a U-shape
  • MC curve will intersect the minimum points of the AVC and ATC curves
production and cost in the long run
Production And Cost in the Long Run
  • In the long run, costs behave differently
    • Firm can adjust all of its inputs in any way it wants
      • In the long run, there are no fixed inputs or fixed costs
        • All inputs and all costs are variable
        • Firm must decide what combination of inputs to use in producing any level of output
  • The firm’s goal is to earn the highest possible profit
    • To do this, it must follow the least cost rule
      • To produce any given level of output the firm will choose the input mix with the lowest cost
production and cost in the long run1
Production And Cost in the Long Run
  • Long-run total cost
    • The cost of producing each quantity of output when the least-cost input mix is chosen in the long run
  • Long-run average total cost
    • The cost per unit of output in the long run, when all inputs are variable
  • The long-run average total cost (LRATC)
    • Cost per unit of output in the long-run
the relationship between long run and short run costs
The Relationship Between Long-Run And Short-Run Costs
  • For some output levels, LRTC is smaller than TC
  • Long-run total cost of producing a given level of output can be less than or equal to, but never greater than, short-run total cost (LRTC ≤ TC)
  • Long-run average cost of producing a given level of output can be less than or equal to, but never greater than, short–run average total cost (LRATC ≤ ATC)
average cost and plant size
Average Cost And Plant Size
  • Plant
    • Collection of fixed inputs at a firm’s disposal
  • Can distinguish between the long run and the short run
    • In the long run, the firm can change the size of its plant
    • In the short run, it is stuck with its current plant size
  • ATC curve tells us how average cost behaves in the short run, when the firm uses a plant of a given size
  • To produce any level of output, it will always choose that ATC curve—among all of the ATC curves available—that enables it to produce at lowest possible average total cost
    • This insight tells us how we can graph the firm’s LRATC curve
graphing the lratc curve
Graphing the LRATC Curve
  • A firm’s LRATC curve combines portions of each ATC curve available to firm in the long run
    • For each output level, firm will always choose to operate on the ATC curve with the lowest possible cost
  • In the short run, a firm can only move along its current ATC curve
  • However, in the long run it can move from one ATC curve to another by varying the size of its plant
    • Will also be moving along its LRATC curve
economics of scale
Economics of Scale
  • Economics of scale
    • Long-run average age total cost decreases as output increases
  • When an increase in output causes LRATC to decrease, we say that the firm is enjoying economics of scale
    • The more output produced, the lower the cost per unit
  • When long-run total cost rises proportionately less than output, production is characterized by economies of scale
    • LRATC curve slopes downward
gains from specialization
Gains From Specialization
  • One reason for economies of scale is gains from specialization
  • The greatest opportunities for increased specialization occur when a firm is producing at a relatively low level of output
    • With a relatively small plant and small workforce
  • Thus, economies of scale are more likely to occur at lower levels of output
more efficient use of lumpy inputs
More Efficient Use of Lumpy Inputs
  • Another explanation for economies of scale involves the “lumpy” nature of many types of plant and equipment
    • Some types of inputs cannot be increased in tiny increments, but rather must be increased in large jumps
  • Plant and equipment must be purchased in large lumps
    • Low cost per unit is achieved only at high levels of output
  • Making more efficient use of lumpy inputs will have more impact on LRATC at low levels of output
    • When these inputs make up a greater proportion of the firm’s total costs
      • At high levels of output, the impact is smaller
diseconomies of scale
Diseconomies of Scale
  • Long-run average total cost increases as output increases
  • As output continues to increase, most firms will reach a point where bigness begins to cause problems
    • True even in the long run, when the firm is free to increase its plant size as well as its workforce
  • When long-run total cost rises more than in proportion to output, there are diseconomies of scale
    • LRATC curve slopes upward
  • While economies of scale are more likely at low levels of output
    • Diseconomies of scale are more likely at higher output levels
constant returns to scale
Constant Returns To Scale
  • Long-run average total cost is unchanged as output increases
  • When both output and long-run total cost rise by the same proportion, production is characterized by constant returns to scale
    • LRATC curve is flat
  • In sum, when we look at the behavior of LRATC, we often expect a pattern like the following
    • Economies of scale (decreasing LRATC) at relatively low levels of output
    • Constant returns to scale (constant LRATC) at some intermediate levels of output
    • Diseconomies of scale (increasing LRATC) at relatively high levels of output
  • This is why LRATC curves are typically U-shaped
using the theory long run costs market structure and mergers
Using the Theory: Long Run Costs, Market Structure and Mergers
  • The number of firms in a market is an important aspect of market structure—a general term for the environment in which trading takes place
  • What accounts for these differences in the number of sellers in the market?
    • Shape of the LRATC curve plays an important role in the answer
lratc and the size of firms
LRATC and the Size of Firms
  • The output level at which the LRATC first hits bottom is known as the minimum efficient scale (MES) for the firm
    • Lowest level of output at which it can achieve minimum cost per unit
  • Can also determine the maximum possible total quantity demanded by using market demand curve
  • Applying these two curves—the LRATC for the typical firm, and the demand curve for the entire market—to market structure
    • When the MES is small relative to the maximum potential market
      • Firms that are relatively small will have a cost advantage over relatively large firms
      • Market should be populated by many small firms, each producing for only a tiny share of the market
lratc and the size of firms1
LRATC and the Size of Firms
  • There are significant economies of scale that continue as output increases
    • Even to the point where a typical firm is supplying the maximum possible quantity demanded
  • This market will gravitate naturally toward monopoly
  • In some cases the MES occurs at 25% of the maximum potential market
    • In this type of market, expect to see a few large competitors
  • There are significant lumpy inputs that create economies of scale
    • Until each firm has expanded to produce for a large share of the market
lratc and the size of firms2
LRATC and the Size of Firms
  • The MES of the typical firm in this market is 1,000 units
    • Lowest output level at which it reaches minimum cost per unit
    • For firms in this market, diseconomies of scale don’t set in until output exceeds 10,000 units
  • Since both small and large firms can have equally low average costs with neither having any advantage over the other
    • Firms of varying sizes can coexist
the urge to merge
The Urge To Merge
  • If by doubling their output, firms could slide down the LRATC curve in Figure 9, and enjoy a significant cost advantage over any other, still-smaller firm, they would
    • This is a market that is ripe for a merger wave
  • A sudden merger wave is usually set off by some change in the market
  • Market structure in general—and mergers and acquisitions in particular—raise many important issues for public policy
    • Low-cost production can benefit consumers—if it results in lower prices